Rare political skills have sadly passed

Editorial | Mary Ma 21 May 2020

The political era of Allen Lee Peng-fei is long gone. His ability to maneuver across the political spectrum -regardless of color - displayed a rare value that is so badly missing today.

Who is not concerned about the SAR's current status quo?

Will Lee's death formally mark the end of an era of consensus building that had contributed tremendously to Hong Kong's success as an international financial center?

Like many others who fled to Hong Kong from the mainland in the 1950s and 60s, Lee joined the mass exodus to the city at the age of 14.

This decision his mother made for him drastically changed the course of his life, with years of studying and working in the US before returning to Hong Kong.

Younger generations probably do not know him but older ones will remember that Lee, Lydia Dunn and Chung Sze-yuen were collectively known as the "political trio" who tried to influence the Sino-British negotiations on Hong Kong's future from a local perspective.

That was of great importance as, otherwise, Beijing and London could have focused merely on their own national interests.

Dunn, a former senior member of the colonial-era Legislative Council, is the only member of the trio still alive, today enjoying life as a baroness in Britain. Chung, Hong Kong's first ethnic Chinese political heavyweight after the Second World War, died in November 2018.

Thirty-six years have passed since the beginning of the Sino-British negotiations. The SAR is also in the middle of its 50-year transition as a supposedly "highly autonomous" special administrative region governed by Hong Kong people under the one country, two systems policy.

So much has changed and, in the 23rd year since the handover, the SAR is again at a major crossroads. Everyone - old and young, within and outside the establishment - is feeling the pressure of uncertainty.

The annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference starts today, to be followed by the plenary session of the National People's Congress tomorrow.

The Beijing conferences could be a game changer for Hong Kong amid speculation that the hugely controversial issue of Basic Law Article 23 legislation on national security may be brought up - not only for panel discussion but also taken up by those at a higher level. The atmosphere is heavy, and we can all only hope for the best.

Lee has now become a figure in history, with memories of his readiness to speak up in advancing a wish for the "highly autonomous" SAR to elect the chief executive and Legco by universal suffrage.

He personally experienced the turbulent times that were hugely significant to Hong Kong, and his critics could never dismiss him as a nobody in Hong Kong's critical transition from a British colony to a Chinese SAR.

Although he co-founded the Liberal Party, he demonstrated the rare skill of blurring political divides to forge consensus acceptable to rival camps.

While Hong Kong continues to polarize with the mutually exclusive "blue" and "yellow" camps, Lee stood for that quality that is so badly needed today.

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